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Established 1995 filmfestivals.com serves and documents relentless the festivals community, offering 92.000 articles of news, free blog profiles and functions to enable festival matchmaking with filmmakers.

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Berlin 60th: 60 good reasons, some hot hotel tips and Howl!

A flashy two page center spread in the popular daily tabloid BERLIN KURIER offers a list of "Sixty Facts about the 60th Birthday" of the Berlin Film Festival, which is tantamount to listing sixty good reasons not to miss this one. The spread is adorned with a top to bottom leggy photo of a winsomely smiling Jessica Alba, star of Michael Winterbottom's "The Killer Inside Me", and smaller shots spaced around the layout of Leonardo Dicaprio, who will be here to promote the new Martin Scorcese thriller "Shutter Island", Spanish star Penelope Cruz pictured with Ben Kingsley, and Benicio del Toro along with actress Emily Blunt, who are here to promote the new version of "Wolfman". Although Benicio was not on the officially invited guest list this year he came anyway because, as he puts it, "Winning a Berlin Silver Bear here in 2001 changed my life, and I just love this festival. I also like the way I look as the Wolfman --so Cooool".

This article has a section supplying "hot tips" for autograph hounds on the hotels where the stars will be hanging their hats. Such information is generally hush-hush to the general public, but the Kurier is not known for excessive qualms over discreteness. Mr. Scorcese, Di Caprio, Pierce Brosnan (here for Polanski's "The Ghostwriter") and actress Sharon Stone, in town for the annual "Cinema for Peace" bash, will all be crashing at the Regent. Penelope Cruz ("Nine") and Ben Stiller ("Greenberg") will be holing up at the classy Adlon next to the Brandenburg Gate, whereas Jessica Alba will be spending her night here at the Hotel de Rome. The Berlin International Jury, headed up by local boy Werner Herzog and numbering in its lineup American actress Rene Zellweger (she was also here last year, and also before that, and is a Berlin favorite -- possibly because of her distinctively Germanic last name) will be staying at the Ritz Carlton, while luminaries of the international press will be housed, as usual, in the Grand Hyatt on Marlene Dietrich Square, which also serves as the press center and is the hub of festival administrative activities.

Among highlights from the Sixty Facts list (some only of local interest) are the following:
The 60th Annual Berlin International fest will screen a grand total of 392 films, as against 383 in 2009;
970 screenings are scheduled; 6241 films were submitted for consideration as against 6107 a year ago;
20 feature films in the international competition section, will be vying for the Golden Bear top prize, plus six more in the same Wettbewerb category, but out of competition; Eighteen of the above -- nearly all -- will be world premieres, More than 3,900 media representatives from 80 different countries will be accredited observers; The Premiere red carpet cinema hall is the gargantuan 3,000 seat Berlinale Palast on Marlene Dietrich square; Legendary German actress, Hanna Schygulla, 61, the iconic star of most all of Fassbinder's 60s and 70s classics, will receive a lifetime award; An overall creme-de-la-creme historical retrospective of Festival films --fifty pictures selected from the over 15,000 that have been screened here since 1951; The 1979 boycott by the Eastern Bloc at the showing of "The Deer Hunter" which portrayed the Communist Vietnamese as maddened Russian-roulette savages;

The very first Festival took place under the initiative of Oscar Martay, who was the war film officer for the American Army of occupation -- as a counterweight to the Russian military surrounding of Berlin; The Golden Bears themselves have been poured annually sice 1951 by the Noack foundry right here in Berlin; The first film ever shown at this festival was Alfred Hitchcock's "Rebecca", at the Titania Palace Cinema on June 6th, 1951; The first Soviet Russian film was shown here in 1974; The first East German film was shown here in 1975; Since 1998 a Children's Jury awards a Glass bear to the best children's film; The "Shooting Stars" awards now turn the spotlight on the years most promising new international talent, who are expected to be the stars of tomorrow; The most "reasonably priced" festival restaurant is the MacDonalds, right across from the Berlinale-Palast, where all the galas are held, and finally; the most imopressive headgear of the festival --This year festival Director Dieter Kosslick, who makes a point of being photographed with every star who shows up at the festival, promises to be wearing the "biggest hat in captivity" --and Last but not Least, The worlds most popular movie star, (everywhere except in the west), Shah Rukh Khan, "The "King of Bollywood", will be here in person, to present his latest film "My Name Is Khan".

Among films which are generating lots of advance buzz, are: Of coure, Roman Polanski's latest, "The Ghostwriter", a story about a speech writer for a prominent British politician which leads to undesired revelations, with an all star gold plated cast; Pierce Brosnan, Ewan McGregor, and "Sex and the City " star, Kim Cattrall. The irony is that, just in case this film scores a Bear, (which because of the notoriety of the director, it well might,) Mr. Polanski will not be able to accept the honor in person as he is currently under house arrest in Switzeland, awaiting (and trying to avoid) extradition to Hollywood to face a 36 year old charge of illegal sex with a minor --Ho-ho! "Howl", in competition, straight from Sundance where it was the festival opener, is semi-documentary focusing on a page out of the scandal ridden life of gay Poet Laureate of the Beat Generation, Allen Ginsberg, when he was put on trial in 1957 for obscenity in connection with the publication of his magnum opus "Howl". (I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by dope ...). The poet is portrayed by actor James Franco who appeared opposite Sean Penn in last year's Oscarized gay mayor movie "Milk", and is directed in tandem by documentarians Rob Epstein (The times of Harvey Milk, 1984 ) and Jeffrey Friedman (The Celluloid Closet, 1995)

. Using Gínsberg's famous verse masterpiece as the focal point of the story, "Howl" looks at different aspects of this landmark poem of the Beat era. The poem itself is depicted through animation and Ginsberg is shown reading it to an audience for the first time, then being interviewed by a faceless faceless reporter. Tailor made for Beatnik Era buffs (such as myself, for instance).

Another competition film entitled "Greenberg", is a comedy-drama pairing Ben Stiller with far more serious actress Jennifer-Jason Leigh, which is in itself something worthy of note. The fact, however, that director Noah Baumbach was the perpetrator of the ridiculous screenplay of the appallingly unfunny "comedy" "The Life Acquatic with Streve Zissou" (Berlin, 2004) gives one pause not to expect too much.
"The Kids Are All Right" (Non Competition) directed by Lisa Cholodenko, is another Sundance selection bringing together two of Hollywood's truly classy middle-aged actresses, Annette Benning and Julianne Mioore, as a lesbian couple who have raised two kids now fully grown, at which point they set out to track down the original sperm donor fathers! This could be a winner. A truly off-the-wall entry is the German competition film "Jud Süß --a film without a Conscience". This film relates the story of the making of the abominable Nazi film --"Jew Süß" --or "Süß the Dirty Jew", which Dr. Goebbels considered to be a great masterpiece, as it served to stir up to fever pitch the already simmering anti-Semitism of the German masses in the thities, thus giving them a good excuse to look the other way when the extermination started. Looks like Berlin Sixty is going to be a good one.
Berlinale Dailies
Alex Deleon, Berlin

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